Positive and Negative Methods for Coping with Overwhelming Emotions

Updated on August 1, 2019

In life, there’s no way around experiencing negative emotions like sadness, fear, and anger. The trials and tribulations often encountered throughout life send you on an emotional rollercoaster. Essentially working through the matter and coping with those negative feelings is the healthiest thing you can do for your physical and emotional health. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to get past those feelings. This is especially true when the experience is recurrent, traumatic, or life-altering. Not wanting to feel these emotions anymore, many turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that may provide temporary relief, but essentially only make things worse. 

In order to prevent spiraling down the wrong path, start by learning the right and wrong ways to cope with your overwhelming feelings. 

Unhealthy Methods of Coping

Let’s start with what not to do. When triggered by overwhelming emotions it’s not uncommon for people to turn to destructive behaviors such as those described below:

Overeating – Everyone can agree that food comforts the soul. However, some people use food as a crutch for getting past their feelings. They indulge in unhealthy foods including chips, baked goods, candy, fast food, and more. This may taste great and make you feel okay for a while, but eventually, overeating leads to obesity and related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for stroke. 

Lashing Out – When you don’t know how to cope with your negative emotions you bottle them up and lash out at others. Your job is really stressful but instead of dealing with the stress you come home and shout at your children for simply being kids. You don’t want anyone to see you down so you pick on others and their circumstances to take the light off of you. This is a terrible way to deal with your emotions as it makes those closest to you feel bad. 

Substance Abuse – A drink after work calms your nerves. Taking extra pain pills helps you to forget about the physical and psychological pain from your car accident. This might provide temporary relief but it can quickly turn into substance abuse or addiction. If you have begun relying on the bottle or pills more than you should seek help from a rehab center. They have several types of behavioral therapy methods they use to help identify the stimuli (causes) for your behavior. From this information, they can formulate an individualized plan to help you detox and refrain from using again. 

Isolation – Another way people negatively cope with their emotions is to isolate themselves. Though some time alone may be necessary to heal, too much time alone can lead to depression which is a serious mental illness. 

Healthy Coping Methods

Now that you know what methods aren’t ideal for getting past overwhelming emotions, let’s take a brief look at what you can do:

Acknowledge What You’re Feeling – First is to acknowledge your emotions. Holding them in causes you to act out negatively. If you’re sad, don’t be afraid to feel that and if necessary let others know about your pain as well. 

Determine the Cause – Knowing what got you to this point emotionally can help you create plans for a more positive future. Why are you afraid, angry, or sad? 

Change What You Can – Not everything in life can be avoided but you can take steps to right your wrongs and create a better tomorrow. If you lost your job essentially because you were late, come up with a plan to make sure you can show up on time or search for jobs that better coincide with your personal schedule. 

Take a Deep Breath – Life is filled with surprises and not all of them are great. When you start feeling overwhelmed, find a quiet place, sit in a comfortable position and breath deeply in and out. Repeat this for about 10-15 minutes. 

Talk to Someone – When you can’t sort through your own emotions it is imperative to reach out for help. Talking with a therapist can help you in getting to the bottom of it all. They listen to your experience and use it to help you pinpoint causes and actionable steps towards positive change. 

You can’t go through life without feeling bad on occasion. When it happens, however, it’s important that you deal with it in a positive manner. Resorting to coping methods like substance abuse, bullying, or isolation isn’t the way. Instead, seek help from a therapist, practice meditation, and when you’re up to it, change what you can for a brighter future. 

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